Given the easy access to financial information nowadays and the abundance of online resources, one might expect that Gen Z would possess a higher level of financial literacy compared to previous generations. However, research shows a surprising trend – Gen Z demonstrates the lowest level of financial literacy among all preceding generations.
Nevertheless, this lack of financial knowledge is not entirely unexpected. For many young individuals, financial literacy falls under the concept of ‘unconscious incompetence’; they are unaware of what they don’t know, and they fail to recognize the crucial role this skill plays in shaping their future. Similar to their predecessors, Gen Z often stumbles through various financial decisions, learning through costly trial and error. The difference lies in the fast-paced technological advancements and the increasing complexity of the financial landscape, which significantly elevates the stakes for this generation.
Unfortunately, the absence of sufficient financial education programs exacerbates the problem, leaving Gen Z woefully unprepared to comprehend and make sound financial choices. Consequently, they become susceptible to falling into the debt cycle, becoming victims of investment scams, and finding themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to building wealth.
A series of unfortunate events
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that there will be any change in the current situation for several reasons. The increasing workload for Gen Z students has resulted in heightened stress levels, particularly concerning exams and entrance tests. This pressure leads them to adopt a tunnel vision, focusing solely on academic pursuits and neglecting anything beyond that narrow scope.
Financial education is one area that falls outside of this tunnel vision. Since there is no immediate perceived need or benefit, it remains largely ignored. Moreover, parents, also overwhelmed by their children’s academic performance, inadvertently reinforce this tunnel vision, emphasizing the existing school curriculum over other essential life skills like financial education.
Even when parents do recognize the importance of financial education, youngsters often resist the additional demands on their time and make efforts to avoid enrollment in such programs. Consequently, many parents choose not to engage in confrontational situations and opt not to fight for financial education.
Schools are not likely to voluntarily incorporate financial education into their curriculum due to time, resource, and budget constraints. Even if it is included in some schools, the typical teaching approach and the relevance and relatability of the content play a crucial role in determining its effectiveness. Unfortunately, most programs fall short in these aspects, leading to minimal impact on students’ lives.
Regrettably, financial education faces yet another missed opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of young individuals as it is not being implemented in a manner that aligns with its intended purpose.
Big red flag
Across the globe, a growing number of financial institutions and fintech companies are trying to address the significant gap in financial education. However, a concerning conflict of interest arises as Gen Z finds themselves receiving financial education from the very entities they should be approaching with skepticism. This raises a big red flag.
Moreover, the actual effectiveness of these efforts is questionable. It’s hard to believe that a couple of mundane student guides and uninspiring PowerPoint slides, accompanied by a patronizing voiceover on a website’s ‘Financial Education’ tab, would have any meaningful impact on changing the financial behavior and mindset of young individuals. Are they expecting these youngsters to dedicate their precious time from their already busy and engaging lives to listen to a monotonous lecture on compound interest? It’s highly unlikely.
The lack of accountability, interaction, and rapport in these educational initiatives hardly constitutes a magic formula for effective and lasting change in the younger generation’s financial habits and understanding.
Nowadays, influencers on social media claim to educate the younger generation about finances through their flashy Instagram reels and snappy TikTok videos. However, their impact isn’t always positive. A significant number of their posts are sponsored by financial companies promoting products they may not fully understand – a familiar red flag.
Even when their content isn’t sponsored, they quickly add a disclaimer that their advice isn’t financial in nature. This raises concerns about the reliability of their information.
Regrettably, the rest of the world mostly remains passive, excusing the approach as the best way to engage youngsters with short attention spans. But what they fail to consider is that many of these ‘finfluencers’ lack proper training and aren’t subject to any regulations. Consequently, they might not be the most suitable role models for young people seeking financial guidance.
The way ahead
Financial literacy is a multifaceted and deeply rooted issue that cannot be effectively solved by any single entity. At KFI GLOBAL, we understand the importance of addressing this challenge, which is why we proudly introduce Fin-Ed UNITED 2023—a nationwide campaign designed to promote financial literacy among the next generation through a scalable, standardized and sustainable approach.
Fin-Ed UNITED 2023 is the result of a collaborative effort by various stakeholders who recognize the numerous benefits of financial literacy for individuals, society and the nation as a whole. Educational institutions, educational authorities, government bodies, financial institutions, and other corporate entities have all come together, driven by their shared commitment to shaping a prosperous future for the next generation.
By pooling our resources, sharing expertise, and leveraging extensive networks, we aim to revolutionize financial education for the next generation and drive social sustainability. Together, we believe in creating a more financially empowered and secure society for the betterment of us all.
Marilyn Pinto is the founder of KFI Global
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